CoastLine: "The time for talking is over." Great-great-grandchildren of The Daily Record's Alex Manly on white consumption of Black pain and why it's time for white people to do their own work towards racial reconciliation
Kieran Haile is the great-great-grandson of Alexander Manly, owner and publisher of The Daily Record, which was burned down in Wilmington, North Carolina by a white supremacist mob in 1898. Kieran and his wife, Priscilla, are uncovering their family’s past: both the triumphs and the pain, the wrongs done to them and the gifts the Manly line has given to the world. And in the process they are learning about themselves, introducing us to another great-great-grandchild of Alex Manly, Leila Haile, and insisting white people start doing their own work towards racial reconciliation.
November 10th, 1898, a mob of violent white supremacists burned down the building that housed The Daily Record, the only daily newspaper published by and for African-American citizens in the south, and possibly in the U.S. The same violent mob chased Black citizens out of town, killed an unknown number of people, and drove Black elected officials out of City Hall at gunpoint. If you’re a regular CoastLine listener, you know this as the story of the coup d'état of 1898 in Wilmington, North Carolina.
Alexander Manly, who escaped the Port City that terrible day more than a century ago, survived because he could pass for white. He and his brother, Frank, left Wilmington behind and made a new home in Washington, D.C. It was there Alex Manly met Carrie Sadgwar and started his own family.
In an earlier episode of CoastLine, we met Alex Manly’s great-great-grandson, Kieran Haile. We also met Kieran’s wife, Priscilla. The couple makes their home in Southern California. And as far as we know, no one after Alex Manly, in his line of descendants, had returned to Wilmington until Kieran and Priscilla Haile in 2021.
In our first interview, which I encourage you to listen to, the couple explains how intergenerational trauma affects them today.
One of the more striking ways: Kieran has brittle bone disease. He believes it’s a result of inbreeding – when white slave owners would rape the Black women they enslaved – repeatedly – until eventually, inevitably, they would be raping their own daughters.
On their first trip to Wilmington, Kieran and Priscilla Haile also expressed what they called an “irrational” fear of coming to the City; they wondered if men with guns would meet them at the airport to finish the job. Priscilla seriously considered straightening her natural Afro in order to draw as little attention to herself as possible.
Since then, the two have returned to Wilmington for the second time. They attended the Soil Collection Ceremony, held in November 2021 by the New Hanover County Remembrance Project, to honor the dead from November 10th, 1898. The Hailes also attended a memorial service for one of the murder victims – Joshua Halsey.
And they returned to the studio to talk about their evolving impressions of Wilmington and introduce another family member: Leila Haile, another great-great-grandchild of Alex Manly.
LEILA HAILE: In the City of Portland, I run an art gallery for Black, Indigenous and folks of Color who have multiple marginalized identities. And I also am the disability program coordinator for the city of Portland.
As a great-great-grandchild of Alexander Manly, Leila is also a cousin to Kieran Haile.
KIERAN HAILE: I am a musician and multimedia engineer working on a few projects in Los Angeles, California.
Priscilla Haile is Kieran’s wife.
PRISCILLA HAILE: I am a preschool associate teacher. I used to work in Contra Costa County, California. Now I'm in Los Angeles.
RACHEL LEWIS HILBURN: So Leila, your cousin, is with you on this trip. Tell me how that came to be.
KH: I absolutely was just kind of fired up and excited by just the things that we saw and were able to take back with us after our last trip. And so I really didn't want it to be just me speaking on this. I understood that this affected a number of people and all of their opinions and interests should be reflected in how it plays out. So I went back and I got on Zoom calls basically with everyone in the family or with whoever was kind of there at the time when I was really just like, Hey, you know, can we get people on this? Is anyone interested in participating in this? There’s more stuff affecting this – going on – that, you know, I think we should be a part of.
Leila Haile explains why they made the trip from Portland, Oregon.
LH: Well, A of all, I just want to give Kieran his flowers for, like, the amount of labor and research and love that has gone into making all of these reconnections and making these connections. And, I only found out about Wilmington On Fire, like a couple of years ago.
That’s a documentary about the Wilmington coup by Christopher Everett. Among the sources in the film: Lewin Manly – Alex Manly’s grandson.
LH: So all of this family history aside from, you know, piecing together bits and parts from stories from our elders, you know, I didn't really have like a solid narrative. So like this is really helping, you know, heal a lot of those, you know, traumatic family wounds when you're like, where do I, especially as like Black Americans or like, where do we come from? Where is our past? We’re people without a history, a lot of times, because these things are purposely purposefully hidden from us.
So I'm really thankful to like, have this be a part of what I feel like is both ancestral and like very current, like familial trauma and, you know, part of our, you know, familial estrangement is because of that trauma. And so we've only been able to like reconnect as like adult siblings very recently. So this is all a part of that. Like that's the golden thread I feel like through all of this narrative is that like, this is a part of like reconnecting with our history in order to have a stronger sense of how did we get here and then how do we move forward?
RLH: Can you talk about the estrangement?
LH: I mean, I don't want to like air out all our family laundry, but I will just say that, you know, the combination of ableism, internalized anti-Blackness, transphobia, homophobia, all of these things kind of, you know, we refer to these things collectively as the hex, right, that befalls all of us. You know, those things are very real and they come to a head and they result in families being fractured and trauma and estrangement. And without airing out our specific business, that’s the lesson that we take through all of this.
…You know, we were at that ceremony yesterday.
Leila is referring to the Soil Collection Ceremony on November 6th, 2021 held by the New Hanover County Remembrance Project. Over months, volunteers collected soil from three locations in Wilmington where people were killed on November 10, 1898. They also took soil near the former site of The Daily Record, Alex Manly's newspaper.
LH: And I noted two Black photographers and the rest of the people who were witnessing and cataloging and kind of consuming were white. Like every single person there, every journalist, whether they were local or not. And there's this thing about, like, witnessing trauma and like the different players at part, right? So for us, this was a, this was a ceremony, right? And for like, for, you know, people part of the African Diaspora ceremony, it means something really, really deep. It means something spiritual. And, you know, just the idiosyncrasies of having, like, all young white volunteers who are helping with the soil part of the ceremony and, you know, having folks there who offered libations, but didn't understand what libations were for and how they are used in ceremony, which is like pretty well-known even if you're not deeply versed in like traditional African religions, you know, that, you know, you don't eat the food that you offer to your ancestors, like that, that's not for human consumption.
PH: I’ve learned that through Black and Caribbean Latin culture, so...
This is Priscilla Haile, Kieran’s wife.
PH: There's a connection there that runs so deep and it's not well understood, I'm going to be frank, by white people.
LH: Nor is it meant to be, to be frank.
PH: No, yeah. So I think that, like you said, I'm sorry, I didn't mean to jump in there, but understanding those boundaries and then respecting them, but paying attention to them so that, you know, we do ensure it's not just performative and that it is actually meaningful.
LH: Yeah. That piece around like white consumption of Black death and Black pain, like, to be frank, y'all love that s***. Folks really -- like the spectacle of Black death and Black pain is as American as apple pie.
I acknowledge the abundance of white attendees at this ceremony, and I acknowledge this -- both members of the press and the general public. And I tell them I also wondered about it and thought briefly about asking some of the white people why they showed up. But I didn’t.
RLH: At what point do we own this history together? Like the pain that white people perpetrated and continue to perpetrate? And at what point do we say this isn't one group's wound; this is a collective wound. And the only way that we can heal it is by recognizing that this is our wound together.
I know better than this. At least, I thought I did. My perception could not be less relevant in this moment. But I’m leaving in this cringe-worthy question because it leads to some pretty direct and potentially eye-opening perspective from Leila.
LH: All of the framing around this has been really interesting. The whole, like, we all need to come to the table. We all need to do this together. I'm like, y'all have a lot of work to do. Because like, what is the role of, like, the descendants of enslaved Africans in this? And it's certainly not to like, make anybody else feel better. Y'all need to start asking each other questions. That's why I was like, you should have, you need to ask each other questions. Why are you here? Is it for this? Not for the benefit of us. We're not getting anything out of your presence. Are you signing over deeds? Are you signing over land? Are you signing over businesses? Are you signing over your cars? Are you signing over, like, are you taking Black people's debt? Like, what are you doing? The time for talking is over.
We've been talking for a hundred years. It's not doing anything. Like we know what to do, but I think it's like now it's time for white folks to look at yourselves and decide how you're going to clean up your own backyard. Like, you need to clean up your own backyard before you come to our table. Don't come to my house with dirty feet. And your feet are filthy.
So I'd say like, y'all need to decide that. It's your question. It's not ours. We know our work as Africans. Like our work is to get organized and to find liberation for our people. Like, and we know if like, if this is generational trauma we're dealing with then what are y'all dealing with? Like, that's the question.
Priscilla Haile offers an example of a white person who is doing the work.
PH: Lucy McCauley. Lucy McCauley is a descendant of a perpetrator of 1898. And she -- her mother passed last year. And so she has decided to take the proceeds of that, her portion of the proceeds of that estate and turn it into a scholarship for the descendants of people who were affected by -- the Black people of 1898. That's actionable. That’s money that's going to go directly into the hands of Black folk who were affected by this and help them progress. So those are, those are actionable things.
It’s true. Lucy McCauley confirms the foundation should be operational by the end of 2021.
PH: So the thing that we’re here to start laying down is what action can we take to bring equity, to bring healing?
Kieran and Leila Haile are cousins. They are also the great-great-grandchildren of Alexander Manly, publisher of The Daily Record, the only Black-owned daily paper in the South, possibly the country, in 1898. A white mob ran Manly and his brother out of town after burning down his building, killing at least a dozen people, possibly more, and ousting elected Black officials at gunpoint.
It was a coup d’etat. In Wilmington, North Carolina.
Manly’s descendants are in Wilmington to learn more about what happened, what their family lost, and how they might find reparation and healing. In more ways than one. Also with us today: Priscilla Haile, Kieran’s wife.
She has just pointed to a white person working to mitigate the harm inflicted by her ancestors. Lucy McCauley, a descendant of one of the coup’s perpetrators, is setting up a scholarship fund for Black descendants of victims. Kieran Haile agrees she’s a fine example.
KIERAN HAILE: I like that example, but that's an example of a person who decided, you know, to try to act on this.
PRISCILLA HAILE: To do what’s right, yeah.
KH: And there's, there's not a, as far as I know, there's plenty of people who've benefited from 1898 and other actions who benefited and didn't did not know, or they do know and don't care. And so how do you, how do you, how do you create action, you know, from, from those, or even just, how do you call action on a grand scale in that way? I'm not totally sure.
PH: It's like, it's kind of like, like Leila saying, like there are, there was land that was lost. There were businesses and homes that were lost. And so what are we doing to ensure that that's rightfully returned and also ensure that it's equitable to today's standards?
PH: 1898 was 123 years ago. So clearly, and within that time, there is a tremendous economic loss. Just that one thing, if we focus on that, that has occurred over this time and has just stopped a family in its tracks, you know? And we're not the only ones, they're not the only ones. And I think it's important that we address that. And so I think for white people, especially white people in old Wilmington, it's time to say, what can we do? What can we actually do? Not just talk about, or have a ceremony over…
LEILA HAILE: Who was it who found the deed to the livery?
KH and PH: Oh yeah, that was Philip Gerard. Yeah. Philip Gerard.
KH: I love that dude.
LH: Well, all we got to do is look up how much a livery cost then.
They’re talking about the deed to Alexander Manly’s livery company – which he had incorporated in the state of North Carolina before he was forced to flee in 1898.
LH: Factor for inflation. And the state of North Carolina can just give our family that money. You know, like there are like, we have to get creative, because true reparations, like we've talked about this, how it would just bankrupt the Western world completely. Like the amount of money that was made off of Black Africans in general is incalculable by today's standards. Like it's a literal goo-gillion amount of money.
LH: Like we were providing, like, 60% of the world's cotton at one point that was just cotton. Like not to mention all of the other things. So like, you know, it's just, it goes like some debts are, are irreparable. Like you cannot repay them. Like you cannot repay the deaths. Like you, you cannot repay the loss of life. You cannot repay the trauma. You cannot repay all of these things. The best you can do is get creative.
Kieran explains why he’s more optimistic about the possibility of reparations than he was just two months ago.
KH: The case of 1898 is just, in my opinion, just kind of just so cut and dry, just so very clear here was an individual who's doing well for himself, who the entire community decided to just shut down. And that's not okay. Right? So here's one clear-cut case, and that's what makes it, that's what I don't know. I don't want to say we're lucky or whatever, but that gives us -- the clearness of that scenario is easy to point at and point at the wrongness of it. But there's a, yeah, there's a much larger in all the ways that the systems were institutionalized to do us wrong. We need to kind of bend back each of those, and that's a much larger and messier effort.
PH: And you're going to find resistance to it. I mean, teaching the history, especially right now, is hard enough. So asking someone who doesn't even want to teach the history of it and tell the truth to ensure that we can make some sort of reconciliation in the form of finances or financial support in some way, is definitely, it seems like an impossible battle, you know, especially at the state level, particularly like -- North Carolina has a reputation for legislation that is violent and wrong, you know what I mean? So how do you, how do you approach them with that?
RLH: Since we spoke, have you heard conversations, local conversations that make it sound like it might be more of a possibility than you initially thought coming in?
KH: I definitely heard more. It was more of a topic of conversation than I initially thought. I thought that I was the outlier for thinking that, that this was something that was deserved. But plenty of people at least seem to be on the same page about it and so that's encouraging, but it's, yeah, I don't know.
PH: I mean, you know, Ms. Sonia is -- I'm immediately just in awe and respect her tenacity because it has been a straight uphill battle for her here. But she's still doing it and continues to do it.
She’s talking about Sonia Patrick, a longtime activist and advocate for civil rights in the Cape Fear region. Sonia Patrick also spoke at the November Soil Collection Ceremony honoring the victims of 1898.
PH: And so from my part, I feel motivated to jump in to ensure that there are tangible, there's a tangible end point for her efforts and for the efforts of all our Black people who are trying to accomplish this here. … And so it's like, yeah, we want action on this local level, but it's not just for these group of Black people. It's for all Black people here, you know?
LH: And I feel like, you know, wherever we can make a case, you know, politics in United States, it's like, oh, what happens in one state? And then other states fall…
LH: So like, this is to me very connective, not just to like Wilmington and North Carolina, but, you know, for the whole of, you know, African folks in the United States trying to get their due and, you know, us getting our due here, you know, connects back to the motherland. It connects to Africans on the continent getting their due and, you know, so it's, it's all connected to me.
When I spoke with Kieran and Priscilla a couple of months ago, they talked about visiting a town in North Carolina called, interestingly, Manly. They believe this town was started by Governor Charles Manly – as a place to put the people he, a white Governor, had enslaved.
KH: We went to Manly…
PH: Manly, yes…
KH: We spoke about Manly in our interview and we went there physically to check it out.
RLH: What did you find?
PH: Not much, but the Presbyterian Church...
KH: The only thing in town that still had the name Manly on it was the church, but we, I had hoped, well, I mean, it was, you know, it was crazy, you know, guerilla - style mission. So we had the only day we could squeeze it in was a Sunday. And when we went, some of the shops were closed, so we might have to go back. But we did dig up some local history on it and we got, we actually spoke with one of the preachers in town.
PH: Yeah, there's a pastor. Oh my gosh. I can't remember his name suddenly, but he's the pastor, at, I think it's called Trinity AME?
KH: It was Trinity AME.
PH: Yeah. In Southern Pines. He grew up there. He attended Jordan Chapel. I believe his father was also a pastor there. And Jordan Chapel is interesting because the father relayed a story to us about how he discovered this really old Bible –
KH: Paul Murphy.
PH: Paul Murphy. Thank you. Father Paul Murphy. Hello, Paul Murphy. And related a story to us of seeing signatures of clergy passing through heading to Wilmington to help protect and speak on behalf of the Black community that were being run out of town. And he talks about how these clergy members knew they were coming at risk because some of them were shot in the woods on their way out to Wilmington.
PH: And he talks about families that they knew that had hidden in pine forest, making their way to Southern Pines, making their way to Manly and stopping at Jordan Chapel and the church helping to provide them refuge and safe passage out of the area.
PH: And then he mentioned that Jordan Chapel was asked to give up their location for a housing development. And when they declined, they were harassed. The altar was defecated on, the pews urinated in, windows busted out. And so finally, after all the harassment, they decided, okay, we'll relocate. And so they lifted up the building and moved it down the road and across the way. But they didn't, they weren't able to bring their cemetery with them. And so now this housing development’s there and they don't know what happened to any of those records, they don't know what happened to any of those graves, the people buried there, their headstones, no, they, they, they don't know…
PH: So somehow the central library, Los Angeles ends up with all of these crazy records from all over the country.
KH: Yeah, we were trying to double-check census records and just whatever, like business records and like neighborhood records that we could at the LA central library.
PH: Yeah, and there’s so much there that we just didn’t have time in the trip that we made. But I did notice that there were listings of burials within a few counties in North Carolina at that time. We also found like marriage records from plantations that someone had taken out the time and like typed up in the early 19-hundreds. And it's just there. And also there's a group of census records from, I believe, 1890 in North Carolina that historians that we’ve spoken to here don't have access to -- it's in the central library in Los Angeles.
So Kieran and I are doing some researching and trying to figure out, you know, and I'm hoping that Jordan Chapel's records are somewhere in them, whether it's…
KH: One of the churches had their records destroyed. Which one? Do you remember which one that was? Because basically like, we're still looking for Manly records.
PH: Oh, it was the courthouse that burned down in 1889 in Manly. Yeah. So the original Moore County Courthouse, and speaking to locals and reading books written in that area, they still believe it's arson, but a fire suddenly broke out in 1889 at the Moore County Courthouse. And so they have no records, you know, preceding that time.
KH: Yeah. A couple instances where we thought we were about to find a record of something or a signature on something -- in a couple different cases the records have been just destroyed or lost.
KH: … I don't think that's a coincidence. That’s just me.
PH: No, no.
LH: No, that’s a tribe tactic, like, historical narratives are a pillar of white supremacy. It's how they keep the all-in ideology going.
KH: Right. Right.
RLH: You mentioned last time that you felt like you had a pretty guided experience, you know, people were open and friendly and you didn't feel the same trepidation, maybe that you felt thinking about it. Where are you now with that?
KH: I mean, I think we've met and interfaced and interacted with enough people to understand that there is some concept of awareness here, not only of the event, but just kind of the toll it took. But at the same time, I can't assume that of everyone in this community. I still kind of have to judge that and very carefully introduce myself into scenarios. So yeah. There is an awareness around it, but it's not where it should be, I think.
LH: Yeah. I feel like there are a lot of well-meaning allies, like we were saying before.
PH: I definitely feel less anxious this time, you know? And it's not because I have, like, the rose colored glasses on, I think, while it was, it was interesting to see so many white people at the event yesterday.
Priscilla Haile is talking about the Soil Collection Ceremony on November 6, 2021.
PH: I think that, I think that… it, it, I hope that they go home and tell somebody about it. Do you know? Like, I hope that they do the work from there.
PH: Because that's what's the encouraging part is knowing that you are having these conversations and open to the discomfort of it, you know, cause not everybody's willing to make themselves uncomfortable.
PH: And so I could see in the crowd, there were some people uncomfortable with the things that were being said, but nobody walked away and that's a starting point. I think that kind of encourages me and makes me feel like I'm okay here, you know, it's not, it's not great, not at all. And I know there are some people who hate me just based on how I look, but, you know, that's a them problem, not a me problem, but I know that there is community for me here and that feels really good to have come back and have that community and embrace us again so openly.
KH: I did notice one thing, and it's not, you know, not a total bummer, but it did kind of bum me out. The mayor spoke at the burial ceremony, and I happened to be following quite a bit of what's going on over here. And I kind of noticed that the mayor, a, his speech was a little, I don't want to say lackluster, but definitely established himself as, as an other to the Black community of this city. But not only that, it was the exact same speech verbatim that he gave two weeks ago.
PH: At the press conference.
KH: ...at a press conference at 1898 park.
Mayor Bill Saffo says he actually had a longer speech prepared for that Halsey burial event, but event organizers asked speakers to shorten their remarks due to inclement weather.
KH: So yeah, that's not, that's not...
PH: That's performative and disingenuous.
KH: That’s not a great move and it's a little, yeah. It bummed me out about this city and about the city's willingness to participate in its side of things here. Like not, not totally there yet.
The mayor’s intent, says a Wilmington City spokesperson, was to reiterate the city’s commitment to healing and progress to the widest possible audience throughout the 1898 commemorative events.
We talk about Confederate monuments – around the country and in the Port City. I tell them about the two monuments that stood downtown for decades until protests on the heels of the murder of George Floyd caused city officials to pull them down citing public safety. That was 2020. In 2021, city workers took down their pedestals.
As of December 2021, they are still in what the city calls interim storage.
Leila Haile says they see the same issue in their home city of Portland, Oregon.
LH: People just took them down, people just tore them down and we’re also –
RLH: Protesters tore them down?
LH: Yeah. And so we're, we're also storing them now. And like part of my job as like Creative Laureate for the city of Portland is like, creating space for some of these conversations. And one of my big questions for folks has been like, why are you storing them? Like, it's very easy to smelt metal…
PH: Isn’t there a metal shortage in the world right now?
LH: We’re having supply chains up and down that are like having trouble. So I'm just like, melt ‘em like, what are you saving them for? Do you think the Confederacy is going to come back? And like the whole question, like heritage, like the Confederacy lasted five years, like The Simpsons has more of a heritage…
LH: The Nazi flag is outlawed in Germany and guess what Nazis use?
We return to their research process.
RLH: So it was Philip Gerard who found the livery deed.
PH: Was it the livery deed or the house deed?
KH: It was the livery deed.
PH: Livery deed. Yes. Yes.
RLH: Okay. So you're still looking for a house deed?
KH & PH: Yes. Yes.
PH: But the Latimer House has kind of pointed us in the direction of the old Sadgwar collection that was donated on behalf of the Baha’I faith. And they may have some Manly papers in it.
KH: UNCW archives may have some stuff.
PH: You know, Philip Gerard is someone who interests me because, you know, when we talk about there being white artists and writers who are the ones who have spoken about this, but he had an impact on his life from it. You know, he almost lost his job. But he still keeps telling the truth.
Phillip Gerard, a writing professor at the University of North Carolina Wilmington, and a prolific writer himself, wrote a fictionalized account of 1898 called Cape Fear Rising and published it in the 1990s. Colleagues warned him about the consequences, but Gerard forged ahead.
PH: And like, that's the kind of, when we talk about allies, that's what we talk about. Like you had risks to yourself and your livelihood, but you still stood up, you still pushed forward. Like that's, that's real, you know? And so like, I really appreciate that about him.
LH: I mean, I call that an accomplice.
With me today: Leila Haile, Kieran Haile, and Priscilla Haile. Leila and Kieran are cousins. They are the great-great-grandchildren of Alexander Manly. Priscilla is married to Kieran. And, well, Alexander Manly -- you know by now who he was: escaping Wilmington, North Carolina in November 1898, after a violent white mob burned down his newspaper publishing operation, killed Black citizens, and forced Black elected officials out at gunpoint.
This is Kieran and Priscilla’s second trip to Wilmington. It’s Leila’s first. On their last trip, they found the deed to a livery company that their great-great-grandfather had incorporated. It’s evidence which, they feared, like so many other property records, might have evaporated after the November coup.
I ask them how they plan to continue their work.
RLH: Obviously there's a lot of research you can do from the west coast? PRISCILLA HAILE: One of the things that we spoke about on that Zoom conversation as a family was that, you know, Alex, wasn't just the editor / owner of The Daily Record. He was actively trying to uplift and support the Black community. And even after he left Wilmington and did not return to journalism, he still kept that going forward and instilled that value in his son, Milo, who then carried it forward. So I think it's important to remember the part that they played in associations like the Armstrong Association, we're still gonna do more research about that. We'd like to look into their legacies at the universities that they attended and see what they did there. And then also ensure that whatever we go forward with is aligned with those values to uplift and support the Black community, whether it's, you know, with physical space, you know, because that's something that they provided for people was -- people going to Penn state and stuff like that would come and stay at the house or passing through on like tours, they would stay with the Manlys.
PH: And so like providing space for Black people, Indigenous people and other People of Color who, you know, needed and need support in their platform. Professional development, you know, he had a painter's union and an engineering union after that. And so ensuring that they are supported economically, but mentally and emotionally, too, you know, physically -- that's really important. And so we'd like to ensure that going forward, that we remember Alex and his family doing that.
PH: And that it's still being done, you know. Leila’s work. Like, you know, I can't tell you, I don't want to get emotional, but I respect the hell out of you and all the work that you do on behalf of Black, Indigenous, People of Color, especially extra-marginalized, queer people. It's like, you know, we see the fight and especially, you know, North Carolina is, is the bathroom bill state. And so I cannot tell you how tremendous it is that you came here and I appreciate you so much. I really do. So, you know, yeah. Just ensuring that this work has true impact and tangible outcomes is important.
LEILA HAILE: Yeah. I love that. And also like, yeah, I really feel like this is legacy work. Like we're going to build something, like, we are doing something with, you know, the genetic creativity and joie de vivre that has been passed to us. And, you know, we definitely are keeping Alex Manly’s spirit alive and like talking shit wherever we can. So like, yeah, I feel like it's really important to make sure that this goes beyond us and that, you know, we're standing on the shoulders of giants, but who are we lifting up?
Leila Haile told us in the first segment that they run an art gallery for Black, Indigenous, and People of Color who have multiple marginalized identities. They are also the Disability Program Coordinator for the City of Portland in Oregon. I ask Leila to tell me more about their work. What they did not tell us earlier and slipped into the conversation in a way you may have missed is that the Mayor and City Council of Portland appointed them to a two-year term as Creative Laureate.
LH: I'm an artist first and foremost, and I think that art is our most powerful tool for disrupting, you know, dominant ideologies. So that's really how I see my work folding into like all of the work that, you know, Kieran has laid this groundwork for -- is that, you know, in the spirit of James Baldwin, I'm trying to be a witness and connect all of this work that's happening. So I'm doing a lot of documenting while I'm here and trying to, yeah, just bring this story and connect it to like our work in the here and now, and like how, you know, African legacies look different. Like when you look at like, you know, the Kennedy legacy and the Manly legacy are very different.
LH: But yeah, I just, I see my role, no matter what title I happen to hold as like, you know, creative activist. And my job is to like dream up new ways of being and help other people dream up new ways of being, and then just trying it and seeing what sticks. So I feel like it's, it's funky because I work in government now. Like I hold a position in our local government and but I very much consider myself like a civil servant and this like this all folds into me because, you know, you can't -- you scratch a racist, you're going to find a sexist, you know, like that don't say anything like you scratch a sexist, you're going to find a homophobe. Like they're all connected.
LH: So for me, like, that's what intersectionality is. You can't work on one thing without working on all things to make sure that you're doing the job right. That's kind of how I see my role, I guess, in community.
RLH: What was your artistic medium to begin with? Like where, how did you come into art? Do you remember?
LH: my family's just so f*&in’ artistic…
PH: They are so artistic. Yeah. I mean, like everybody, like the houses, their homes are usually filled with everybody's art. There's, you know, grandpa, grandpa, uncles, aunties, brothers, everybody's got art. Yeah.
KH: Musical instruments…
PH: Yeah, musical instruments scattered artifacts from traveling or photography – oh, Courtney's amazing photography -- it's been featured in exhibits and she's in San Luis Obispo, California. So that's like central coast.
Allen Haile, Courtney’s father, served as Dean of the Business School at California Polytechnic State University. He was also a Lieutenant Colonel in the Air Force. He died in 2018.
LH: Yeah. Like I inherited a bunch of our grandfather Allen. I inherited a bunch of his old acrylic paints and I mean, old [laughter]. And so those were my first paints was painting with ten-year-old acrylics that my grandfather had used to create all of the pieces I grew up with. So I don't remember -- art is so natural -- I don't know. To me, everybody is an artist. What do you think you are not like we've been, we had art before we had money and it's so integral to human existence.
I ask Kieran and Priscilla what else they’ve thought about since their first visit in September.
KH: Yeah. Just the one thing that sticks out to me, just thinking about all of it really was one of the first things I listened to in terms of media, just in this area at all was your interview with Kim about CRT.
Kieran is talking about Professor Kim Cook at UNCW – who also directs the Restorative Justice Collaborative at the University.
KH: And it just, the whole thing with critical race theory just blows my mind that it's even a thing. And it's so complicated and, and, and dumb that people are even getting upset about it. And, but just the only people who are actually learning quote unquote critical race theory are law school students. So the issue of it becoming something we teach our kids or whatever -- it's just completely made up and dumb, but really what the opponents of it and people who are trying to turn it into this buzzword and issue, they're trying to erase cynicism towards historical whiteness in the teaching system, which is just...
PH: It's not even cynicism though. It's just being critical of it.
KH: Yeah, being in any way, critical towards race relations. And if I didn't have that perspective, I would be dead now. I would not exist without quote unquote CRT. So I don't know what exactly there -- it’s…
LH: I just feel like it's just history.
PH: That’s what I thought was the point… Like, you study things through a different lens. In order to get deep analysis of something you want to be able to look at it from different perspectives that are not necessarily your own or innate to you. And so all this really is, is the study of our systems and the processes that we have in place as a country specifically to our judicial system and how it can be biased towards Black people and other People of Color, Indigenous people. And so, it is just history with a bit of a critical analysis to it. Yeah.
KH: Yeah. So the opponents are basically trying to codify in law, rose-colored goggles towards whiteness in the past. And some people just can't exist like that. I could not, I literally could not exist like that. I would be dead.
PH: Yeah. I remember books where -- I think it was my fifth grade history book and it was called A More Perfect Union or … And it was blue with the globe on it. And there were some things where it was like -- the way that they refer to slaves, like, you know, but things were good. They were all right. You know, like they had work and shelter and meaningful work. And so I was just kind of like third through fifth grade is -- I don't want to say radicalized. Cause that sounds dumb because it's...
Lh: No, it is. That's what it is.
PH: But like, but it just, but again, even that term radicalizing is, has been charged here. So, but it did create a monumental shift in me because I started learning American history and understanding why, as a result of the way I looked, was I treated this way. And so like it just, and the language around it was always so nebulous and you know, erring on the side of pleasantness, rose colored glasses, you know? And so it really struck me to, at that young age, to learn that we were teaching history in a manner that was not truthful. You're teaching things that I'm supposed to be taking as facts, but these aren't the actual facts.
PH: So why are you teaching this to me? And so it was -- I think -- I've been thinking a lot about where I was at that age because I have a nephew that's that age and he's a dark-skinned Black boy. And sometimes his parents are strict with him and he doesn't understand why. And so his father is from the south before his family moved in the great migration to the west coast. So there's a lot of generational trauma and fear there, you know, and unless someone, you know, you don't usually get the talk ‘til you're about his age or so, you know? But it's hard because you see your peers with these freedoms and privileges and you don't understand why you yourself don't have them. And I'm sorry, baby, but it's just because you're Black and that's really hard to tell an innocent child that, you know,
LH: But when are white kids going to learn about that?
RLH: When are white kids going to learn about racism?
LH: There's this argument that like, you know, it's too tough to teach like white children about racism. Like, and you know, we have to wait until a certain age, but it's like, we don't get that privilege. We have to warn our kids not to go outside.
LH: Every town’s a sundown town.
PH: I mean, I had a child, I had a child in the nursery that I worked in. He was like three and a half, almost four. He told one of the teachers, I don't have to listen to you because you're Black. You know, he called my hair ugly a couple times when I wore my natural hair.
RLH: How old was this kid?
PH: Almost four. About four. Yeah. While I was there. So, you know, and it's interesting because like,
RLH: What do you even say to that? I mean, how do you even…
PH: I mean, you know, the teacher that -- I was called to the classroom after it happened, because it upset her rightfully so, you know?
PH: And all the other children heard that. And so actually, as a result of that, like a few days later, there was bullying of another little Black girl in the class. So there are real ramifications to it. And it's funny because like, I know this child's parents and they seem like they were good people. I didn't have any uncomfortable interactions with them. In fact, one of the times he told me my hair was ugly, his father was with him and his father was just like oh my God, I'm so sorry. No, you know, but it makes you wonder what you hear at home, what the children are hearing at home. And so it's like, but it's funny because it's like, what are they hearing at home? But we expect our educators to do the work of raising our children because they spend a lot of time with us in our current education system.
PH: And so it's like, you're sending a child to me, but they hate me and they don't even know me. And you insist that I care for them and nurture them. And I cannot -- those two things can't go together, you know?
We return to the question of the Town of Manly in North Carolina. Kieran Haile, great-great-grandson of Alex Manly and his wife, Priscilla, have said they believe the town was largely settled by people that Governor Charles Manly had enslaved.
KH: We have a bit more detail on that actually, because as we were looking into it, there's a railroad that was constructed in the area around the same time that the town itself was founded. So the existing theory we had was that the town was where Governor Manley had basically taken all of his illegitimate slave children, giving them freedom and set them off somewhere so that the neighbors would stop asking so many questions. And that is still true. But also we believe that he built up this town to manufacture a workforce for this railroad.
PH: Yeah. There was a turpentine distillery. And so, Manly was named Manly because he supported the railroad in its creation and funding. And so, and then he sent workers to help with the distillery because it's a huge area for turpentine. So we actually have a picture of the Manly distillery that we found in a book. So again, but because the court was burned
KH: And they burned down the records.
PH: Yeah. Because the court was burned, we're still in the process of trying to figure out what we can see in the books, because I know that Jordan chapel had Manlys that attended it.
KH: There's still work to be done over there, but yeah, absolutely. That, that is, that is still our position.
RLH: Leila, thank you for coming in.
LH: Thank you for having me. I mean, I feel like we have these intense conversations with each other so often, and I'm just like, somebody needs to hear this. This felt really great to be able to get this…
PH: And people are listening. It's so wild to me -- thank you to everyone who has listened to the first interview that Kieran and I did with you and taken something away from it. Because if I can change one person's mind, that's something, you know, that's not the end, but that's the work. Yeah. I'm here for it.
RLH: Yeah. Good. Thank you, Priscilla.
PH: Thank you.
RLH: Thank you, Kieran.
KH: Yeah. Thank you. I know we did Manly last time, even that was kind of a big kind of emotional chore for us, but I'd like to visit the former property of Charles Manley, the governor. I'd like to visit the plantations and see what we can dig up there. That’s going to be a whole other quest.
PH: I think we’ll have to emotionally prepare for that.
KH: Yeah. We’ll probably have to take like, yeah, like, uh, you know, plus-12 strength potion first or something.
LH: Yeah, no, we need to, we need to see some, some conjure before that to spiritually protect ourselves from the demons.
KH: That's honestly, that's on my horizon. I'm looking forward towards that, but for now, yeah, just kind of interfacing and …
PH: Starting to come up with plans for real tangible action.
KH: Yeah. So thank you. Thank you for letting us start to do that.
Editor's Note: The publication date of Philip Gerard's Cape Fear Rising has been corrected. It was mistakenly reported as taking place in the 1980s. The book was published in the 1990s.